COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — One of the biggest problems facing our country is opioid addiction.
That can be prescription pain pills, the powerful drug fentanyl, and of course heroin.
New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that heroin overdoses are increasing rapidly and are more deadly than gun violence.
In 2015, 12,989 people died from a heroin overdose.
Ten less than that died from gun violence.
It’s the first time in our country’s history that’s happened.
Friday we talked to a former addict turned interventionist about why this is happening.
David Petersen started using drugs at 13.
By 21 he was shooting up heroin and robbing people to feed his addiction.
“Do you think you could have died,” asked FOX21 News Reporter Kody Fisher.
“Absolutely. If not by overdose, by police bullets,” said Peterson.
He was arrested and spent four years in prison in Texas.
He got clean and found his calling as a clinical interventionist.
Twenty-five years later he’s still helping people going through what he did.
Heroin addiction can start with a simple injury where people begin taking pills, but it’s more than that.
“Opiates provide physical relief and mask as relief for emotional and psychic pain,” said Peterson.
The majority of people he helps are in their late teens or early twenties.
“There are people who are, a real common term is failure to thrive,” said Peterson.
A major contributing factor to this epidemic is the cost.
It’s the same now as it was 40 years ago when David was an addict, and it’s easier to get with home deliveries.
“A telephone call is all it takes,” said Peterson.
One out of 10, how bad is this in Colorado Springs?
“I’d give it a nine,” said Peterson.
An addict never knows if their next shot of heroin will be there last as they chase the always elusive ‘perfect high.’
“It’s in that quest to get to that profound neurvanic state that people slip over the edge,” said Peterson.
How does this get solved?
David draws from his own experience of addiction with heroin when he said someone’s family has to play a significant role in the process, just like his family did, but the structure of the actual programs is critical to success of getting someone clean.
“Compassionate, and I guess firm, but fair, high accountability programing of one kind or another, depending on the severity of people’s addiction, with a family – a genuine family investment,” said Peterson.
He doesn’t discount that things can be done to stop drug cartels and to fix the over prescription of pain killers by doctors, but those are hard to accomplish, so in the meantime, he thinks we should focus on the addicts and their care to heal addiction to heroin.